In Jan. 2020, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the freshly-minted Duke and Duchess of Sussex, made the following statement and shocked the world: “After many months of reflection and internal discussions, we have chosen to make a transition this year in starting to carve out a progressive new role within this institution. We intend to step back as ‘senior’ members of the Royal Family, and work to become financially independent, while continuing to fully support Her Majesty The Queen.”
Claiming their goal to “transition into a new working model,” the royal couple said they would “no longer receive funding through the Sovereign Grant” — and #Megxit was born. While some across the pond lauded the decision due to the British media’s treatment of Meghan, others have seen it as cash grab. “A reminder that Harry and Meghan’s desire to make money from their royal status was the root cause of their departure from the Royal Foundation and ultimately the Firm,” Richard Palmer, the royal correspondent of London’s Daily Express, tweeted in December 2020. “The rows with staff, family, media were all reasons they quit but this was a big part.”
So, what does it all mean? Here, we take a deep dive into what being “financially independent” entails, and how the Sussexes plan to make that happen. Now sit back with a spot of tea and learn of the many ways Meghan and Harry will make money now.
Exactly how 'financially independent' are Meghan and Harry?
Are Meghan Markle and Prince Harry truly now “financially independent,” as they claim? Not exactly. While they have given up accepting their estimated annual $134,000 in Sovereign Grant money, the couple will still receive upwards of $3 million per year from the Duchy of Cornwall, the tax-exempt landholding organization managed by Harry’s father, Prince Charles (via the Daily Mail).
Citing the Funding page of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s website, many were quick to allege that the language on how the pair would make money was intentionally vague. “The ‘funding’ section of Harry and Meghan’s website claims the couple don’t receive ‘tax privileges’ — and then goes on to reveal 95% of their income comes from (tax exempt) Duchy of Cornwall revenues, via Prince Charles,” The Guardian‘s Paul Lewis tweeted in January 2020. “And interesting that Harry and Meghan’s interpretation of ‘financial independence’ means continuing to live in a luxurious property belonging to the Crown Estate.”
Graham Smith, the CEO of the anti-monarchy advocacy group, Republic, didn’t hold back in his criticisms of the couple. “To suggest that they’re not already financially independent is incredibly crass and belies a sense of self entitlement and a lack of self-awareness that is common among royals,” he told Newsweek. “Taxpayers will rightly ask who will be funding their overseas lifestyle, their extra security and trips back and forth between here and North America.” Ouch.
What is Meghan and Harry's combined net worth?
To see where Meghan Markle and Prince Harry are headed, it’s good to look at where they’re starting. So, after breaking with the royal family, how much do the couple have in the bank? Well, according to Business Insider, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have a combined estimated net worth of $30 million. The majority of Harry’s wealth comes from the $10 million inheritance he received from his late mother, Princess Diana, and “an annual seven-figure allowance” he receives from dad Prince Charles’ land investments.
Harry also earned “between $50,000 and $53,000” during his time in the Army Air Corps, per Forbes. (We assume that was just walking-around money.) Meanwhile, Meghan came into the relationship with a net worth of $5 million, mostly due to her time on the legal drama, Suits, where she reportedly earned around $50,000 per episode. According to the Daily Mail, the Sussexes have completely merged their finances after Harry refused to sign a prenuptial agreement, because “he’s determined that his marriage will be a lasting one.”
The couple made their first marital investment in June 2020, when they purchased a 14,563-square-foot, nine-bedroom in Montecito, Calif. for $14.65 million with a reported down payment of $5.2 million (via the Daily Mail). It’s estimated that living on the property will require at least $4.4 million annually due to their mortgage payment, property taxes, utilities, and staff and security. No wonder Meghan and Harry are out here hustling. Now, let’s see what they have lined up.
Disney came calling for Meghan Markle
In Jan. 2020, The Times announced that Meghan Markle had signed a voiceover deal with Disney to benefit the wildlife conservation charity, Elephants Without Borders. ABC Entertainment (a division of Walt Disney) president Karey Burke had hinted at the news at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour, saying, “We have an office waiting for them in the animation studios building should they be looking to produce television” (via The Hollywood Reporter).
Not much was known about the specific voiceover work or the project Meghan would be involved in until the official Twitter account of Disney + dropped the following that March: “Disneynature’s Elephant, an Original Movie narrated by Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex, starts streaming April 3, only on #DisneyPlus.” According to IMDb, the film follows an African elephant as she journeys with her son and herd across the Kalahari Desert.
“I’m really grateful to have the opportunity to be a part of bringing this story of elephants to life,” Meghan said during an appearance on Good Morning America to promote the film. “… I’ve been very lucky to be able to have hands-on experience with elephants in their natural habitat. When you spend time connecting with them and the other wildlife, you really understand we have a role to play in their preservation and their safety.”
Meghan and Harry reportedly have a secret show in the works
One great way to make money in Hollywood is to slap “Executive Producer” above your name on a popular television show and watch the checks roll in. We assume Prince Harry and Meghan Markle understand this, and that’s why Variety reported in August 2020 that the pair had “been quietly shopping an idea for a project around town.”
“While the concept behind their pitch is unknown, the world-famous couple took meetings in June with networks,” the publication stated. “Also unknown: if the pitch is supposed to be for a scripted or unscripted TV series, or something else. But whatever it is, the couple would like to serve as joint producers on the project, according to a source with knowledge of the top-secret idea.”
While it remains unclear how many networks have heard the pitch, Variety confirmed that top executives from NBCUniversal, the network behind Markle’s Suits, sat down with the royal couple to discuss the series. The network declined to comment on the meeting.
Meghan and Harry are podcasters now
In Dec. 2020, Spotify announced a “multi-year partnership” with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s audio-first production company, Archewell Audio, to produce podcasts and shows that tell “uplifting and entertaining stories” and “spotlight powerful and diverse voices and perspectives.”
“What we love about podcasting is that it reminds all of us to take a moment and to really listen, to connect to one another without distraction,” the royal couple said in a joint statement. “With the challenges of 2020, there has never been a more important time to do so, because when we hear each other, and hear each other’s stories, we are reminded of how interconnected we all are.” The first announced project was a holiday special hosted by the “pair that will feature stories of hope and compassion from inspirational guests in celebration of the new year.”
In the trailer for Archewell Audio, Meghan said that she and her husband share a “passion for meeting people and hearing their stories,” with Harry adding that their podcast would seek to find “common ground” to make change “possible” around the world. While no financial details have been released on this joint venture, The Washington Post stated that “it will probably be far less” than the $100 million Joe Rogan received when he switched to Spotify, while Newsweek estimated the deal to be between “$35 million and $75 million.”
Meghan and Harry signed a huge deal with Netflix
This royal couple is coming to the most popular streaming service near you, folks. In Sept. 2020, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry signed a massive deal with Netflix. While no dollar amount has yet been provided, The New York Times reported that the pair “were seeking a deal in the neighborhood of $100 million,” according to executives from Disney and Apple.
And once again, it appears their Netflix content will focus on inspiring stories. “Our lives, both independent of each other, and as a couple have allowed us to understand the power of the human spirit: of courage, resilience, and the need for connection,” the couple said in a statement (via People). “Through our work with diverse communities and their environments, to shining a light on people and causes around the world, our focus will be on creating content that informs but also gives hope.” The Sussexes added that Netflix’s “unprecedented reach will help us share impactful content that unlocks action.”
Netflix’s co-chief executive and chief content officer, Ted Sarandos, stated that the company was “incredibly proud they have chosen Netflix as their creative home” and looked forward to helping Meghan and Harry tell stories “that can help build resilience and increase understanding for audiences everywhere.” Prepare to have your resilience built and your understanding increased soon.
Prince Harry teamed up with Oprah and Apple
In April 2019, Kensington Palace announced on Instagram that Prince Harry was partnering with Oprah Winfrey on a “dynamic multi-part documentary series” about mental health, which they co-created and would executive produce for Apple TV. Citing his “long-standing work on issues and initiatives regarding mental health,” the announcement stated that the series would “broaden the conversation of mental wellness to accelerate change for a more compassionate, connected and positive society.”
Harry said in a statement, “I truly believe that good mental health — mental fitness — is the key to powerful leadership, productive communities and a purpose-driven self. It is a huge responsibility to get this right as we bring you the facts, the science and the awareness of a subject that is so relevant during these times.” He added, “Our hope is that this series will be positive, enlightening and inclusive — sharing global stories of unparalleled human spirit fighting back from the darkest places, and the opportunity for us to understand ourselves and those around us better. I am incredibly proud to be working alongside Oprah on this vital series.”
This collaboration seemed like a no-brainer, considering Winfrey was one of the highest-profile celebrities to support Harry and Meghan Markle’s decision to split from the royal family. “He did what he needed to do for his family,” the media mogul told TMZ. “… I don’t think anybody else has any right to say anything.”
Meghan Markle invested in a coffee startup
Who doesn’t love coffee? Apparently, Meghan Markle is a huge fan. So much so that she invested in the startup, Clevr Blends, a California-based coffee company that produces instant oat-milk lattes. “This investment is in support of a passionate female entrepreneur who prioritizes building community alongside her business,” Meghan said in a statement about the company’s CEO, Hannah Mendoza (via USA Today). “I’m proud to invest in Hannah’s commitment to sourcing ethical ingredients and creating a product that I personally love and (that) has a holistic approach to wellness. I believe in her, and I believe in her company.”
Mendoza was thankful for the investment and to have such a high-profile celebrity endorsing her brand of coffee. “Entrepreneurs need funding, but they also need advisers who care deeply about what they are building. I’m grateful to have found both in the Duchess of Sussex,” she stated (via Vogue Arabia). “Her passion for what we’re creating is palpable, and I couldn’t imagine a more aligned partnership.”
And we have another Oprah Winfrey appearance in the Meghan and Prince Harry money story: Clevr Blends is Oprah-approved thanks to the Duchess of Sussex. “On the first day of Christmas my neighbor ‘M’ sent to me…a basket of deliciousness! (Yes that M [crown emoji]),” Winfrey captioned a December 2020 Instagram post. “My new drink of choice for the morning and night. Wish I had @clevrblends sooner cause I would’ve added it to my Favorite Things list.”
Meghan and Harry have the potential to make a ton more
With deals locked in with Spotify and Netflix, as well as various startup investments and partnerships with Apple and Disney, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry seem to be sitting pretty. But there’s always money on the table, and according to Eytan Avigdor, the CEO of the influencer marketing platform Klear, they could earn as much as $110 million from sponsored posts on social media. “Should they decide to pursue this avenue there is definitely a lot of potential for them considering their loyal fans and high engagement rates which is really the bread and butter for brands looking to find strong ambassadors,” he said (via CNBC).
Then there comes the tried and true celebrity favorite to rake in cash: the memoir. “I’m pretty sure there are already publishers sniffing about proposing they write some sort of palace exposé or memoir about what life is really like as a young royal,” CEO of brand valuation firm Brand Finance, David Haigh, told the outlet. The publication estimates that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex could earn more than the $64 million check that Barack and Michelle Obama cashed for their autobiographies.
Haigh also stated that Meghan could enter into brand partnerships with fashion brands to capitalize on her “Markle sparkle” and “unique global appeal” by simply wearing a brand’s jacket or dress.
Could be Meghan and Harry become a '$10 billion' couple?
With their irons in a ton of proverbial fires, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s earning potential is set to be off the charts. Professor Johnathan Shalit, the founder of InterTalent Rights Group, told Newsweek in December 2020 that they’ll eventually become “the $10 billion royal couple” if they continue to invest in startups like Clevr Blends. “The way you become multi-billionaires is you get involved before the shares explode. So they’re like a shop window for investors,” he said. “Meghan’s going to be a door opener creating opportunities for her partners to get more money.” Shalit added, “When I say $10 billion dollars I mean that as a trajectory. It could be ten years.”
The chairman of Reputation Management Consultants, Eric Schiffer, told the publication that all the deals the Sussexes have made so far would “be north of $100 million.” However, he stated that their combined net worth could take a significant jump post-COVID, when Meghan and Harry are able to charge exorbitant amounts for public and private speaking fees. Schiffer also predicted even more money in the royal couple’s bank accounts if they choose “to participate on the boards of companies and have equity positions.” He explained, “Those could be the largest of all. If you’re on the board of an Airbnb at an early stage because you have this royal glow then, yeah, it could be.”
Long story short, Meghan and Harry’s financial opportunities won’t be drying up anytime soon.
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